Complete Guide To The Whippet: Care, Grooming, Feeding and More

The Whippet is a dainty, delightful companion dog with a gentle soul and a need for speed. Quiet and dignified but athletic, they’ll thrive anywhere with a loving owner and enough exercise.

I’ve been around Whippets all my life. My oldest friend has owned at least one Whippet at all times for the past 30 years. I’m also a veterinarian with over 20 years of experience so I’ve seen many, many Whippets in my career.

How Big Do Whippets Get?

Known as the “poor man’s racehorse,” the swift and agile Whippet was bred to be a smaller, affordable-to-feed version of the Greyhound. Long and lean, they average 25-40 pounds and have a proud bearing that belies their affectionate, playful nature.

What Coat Variations Do Whippets Come In?

Like Greyhounds, their short coats come in a dizzying array of colors, including (but not limited to):

BlackBlueBlue Brindle
CreamFawnRed
Red BrindleWhiteSeal

Called Rose ears, their pinnae are mid-length and gently folded. Eyes are large, round and expressive — dark colors are preferable. Tails are long and tapering with a gentle upward curve.

Closest in appearance to the larger Greyhound, young Whippets are easily mistaken for the smaller Italian Greyhound — a distinctly different breed.

What Kind Of Personality Does A Whippet Have?

Whippets are as lighthearted as they are lithe. Loving and loyal, they’re underrated family companions and exceptionally gentle with children. Reserved at home, a well-trained Whippet is an amiable, neighbor-friendly apartment dog, but their mood changes the minute they have room to run.

Built for sprinting, they have an almost irresistible urge to chase, so play areas should be secure. Parks away from highways, beaches and fenced-in dog parks are good choices, but fences at home should be high because they can climb almost as fast as they run. Favorite casual games include Frisbee and fetch — appropriate competitive activities include lure-coursing and agility.

How Much Grooming Does A Whippet Need?

The Whippet’s short, smooth coat is virtually maintenance-free. Their hair is short but firm and naturally soil-resistant. Brush them weekly with a medium-bristled brush to tame shedding and invigorate their skin.

Not known to develop skin odors, a bath every few months is enough to keep them fresh. Harsh shampoos can dry their coats and worsen shedding, so choose gentle, pH-balanced products formulated just for dogs.

Rose-eared breeds aren’t prone to ear infections, but monthly cleanings are preventive. A dab of cleansing solution on a cotton ball removes wax from the external ear canal and discourages the growth of microorganisms.

Whippets have rugged nails designed to withstand vigorous exercise, but soft grass isn’t abrasive enough to keep them short. Check them every two weeks and trim them as needed. Filing them a little at a time while cuddled up in front of the TV is a good option for dogs sensitive about having their feet handled.

How Much Exercise Does A Whippet Need?

My friends and clients who own Whippets tell me that they come in two speeds: crazy running and asleep under a blanket on the couch. Whippets don’t need constant exercise but they do need to get tired in order to rest peacefully.

If all you do is walk, then great! Whippets can go on long walks and enjoy it immensely.

If you’re up for more vigorous activities, a Whippet is the perfect dog to play frisbee or fetch with, learn agility, and even participate in lure coursing. The limit is usually how much you, as the owner, put into helping and teaching your dogs these abilities.

What Kind Of Dog Food Is Best For Whippets?

Whippets require no special dietary considerations other than they tend to lean towards obesity as they get older (at least the dogs in my practice have). Because they’re already a small frame size, adding extra calories is easy by giving them high-calorie snacks and small bites of people food.

Before we start with the food lists, just know that grain-free dog foods are a myth. There’s zero science showing that they are helpful. In fact, there’s increasing evidence that it’s causing issues in certain breeds of dogs. Food allergies are the only reason to even consider a grain-free diet but only choose one with the help of your veterinarian.

Basic dog foods that I recommend include:

How Long Do Whippets Live?

12 – 15 years according to information from the AKC

What Health Problems Do Whippets Have?

This breed of dog tends to be fairly healthy. I have a veritable squad of Whippets that come into my practice in families of 2 or 3 dogs that have been perfectly healthy for years.

Whippets can become overweight if they’re overfed. Be mindful to feed the recommended amount that your dog food states for your size dog. Being overweight, just like in people, is typically a result of too many calories ingested.

I highly recommend daily brushing of the teeth for Whippets as some of them can have a predisposition to tartar accumulation.

One thing I also want to mention that I’ve seen with both Whippets and Greyhounds is the ease in which they can sometimes injure their skin. They’re more fragile in their skin than many breeds and they can be easily prone to not only scratches and tears but also sunburn as well.

Where Can I Find A Whippet?

Start with the Breeder Referral List From the American Whippet Club

AKC Puppy Page

Search for a local or regional club that may be able to help you find a local breeder

Where Can I Learn More About Whippets?

American Whippet Club

AKC Breed Page

Interesting Facts About Whippets

• They Were the Brainchild of Coal Miners

Like the nobility, coal miners in Victorian England enjoyed dog racing and rabbit hunting, but the popular Greyhound was costly to buy and keep. Their solution was to develop a breed of their own, one with similar abilities but affordable to feed and kennel. Though similar dogs were noted in literature as far back as the 1600s, the Whippet we know today was bred in the 1700s, the likely result of crossbreeding Greyhounds and Terriers.

• Coming to America

Textile workers emigrating from Lancashire first brought Whippets to the United States via New England in the 18th century. They were an instant hit in Massachusetts, a hot spot for dog racing both then and today. They were recognized by the AKC in 1888 as its 46th breed.

• They’re Fast

Pound for pound, Whippets are the fasted domesticated animal on Earth. Aerodynamic, they gallop like Greyhounds with all four feet off the ground every other step, reaching speeds of 35 miles per hour.

• “Whippet” Was an Obvious Name

What else would breeders call the “poor man’s racehorse” other than the Whippet, gleaned from the old English phrase “whip it,” meaning to move quickly? Another theory suggests the name is a misspelling of “wappet,” the term for a yipping little dog. But since the Whippet isn’t a nuisance barker, it seems unlikely.

• They’re Champions

Pinnacle Tennessee Whiskey, less formally known as Whiskey, was the first Whippet to win the AKC National Championship. The 2018 winner beat fine dogs from 49 states and 21 countries to win the biggest show ever by a Whippet. Another Whippet, four-year-old Sounder, set a record in 2019 for the furthest dock jump at nearly 37 feet.

• But They’re Not Guard Dogs

Neither imposing nor loud, Whippets are too calm and amicable to make good guard dogs. Your neighbors will appreciate the peace and quiet, but lock your doors.

• Whippets Like Sweaters

What most dogs really think about sweaters, we’ll never know. But Whippets have such little body fat that they’re miserable in icy temperatures. Keep a stylish coat or sweater handy for chilly days and don’t lee them in cold water with a warm towel handy.

• They’re Surprisingly Popular

Whippets enjoy the most popularity among sighthounds in the US, ranking 59th on the AKC’s most popular breeds list for 2020. Its small size and apartment-friendly temperament make them a good fit for more American homes than the larger Greyhound, ranked 142nd.

• Whippets Are Box Office Fails

Producers for the sci-fi flick Alien 3 needed a four-legged actor to play the role of an otherworldly parasite bursting through an ox’s chest. The Whippet seemed like an obvious choice, but without being able to cover its head, it was just too cute to instill much fear, so the project was scrapped.

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